alibu is shorthand for glamorous oceanfront living,
but the traffic-clogged Pacific Coast Highway is
walled off from the ocean by houses that seem to
be leaning on each other for support, and a jumble
of unsightly development scars the arid hills. Turn off the highway,
however, and surprises abound, none greater than Lavender
Hill Farm, an idyllic enclave at the heart of a private community.
Here, Mel Gibson raised his large family in a sprawling hacienda
that includes three guest houses, an open-sided music pavilion
and the obligatory pool, all concealed by mature trees. Following
the actor’s public difficulties, the house stood empty until it was
bought by Mike Fleiss, a pioneer of reality television.
To transform the echoing interiors and banish any lingering
ghosts, Fleiss summoned Alison Palevsky and Sarah Shetter, who
had previously designed his beachfront bachelor pad. The
two women became friends as students at USC and practiced
together as SPI Design for a decade. And while they recently
opened their own separate offices (AP Design and Sarah Shetter
Design), they still welcome the chance to collaborate. “We work
with a lot of people in the entertainment industry who trust us
because they’re too busy to get involved in details and have
learned to rely on professionals,” says Shetter.